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School District Completes EPHS Vandalism Investigation

The involved students’ punishments were not released per student privacy laws.

officials announced Friday that their investigation into had concluded, but declined to reveal the extent of punishments involved students have or will face, citing student privacy laws.

Associate Superintendent Brian Otott told Dallas-Hiram Patch that while 27 students were investigated by the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office, , that was the extent of the details he could provide regarding those deemed to have been involved. He said privacy laws prevent the district from revealing how many were punished, what punishments they received or whether students’ punishments differed.

Earlier in the week, Otott said as spelled out in Board Policy JD, which covers student discipline. Such offenses are defined in the policy as “those that significantly threaten the safety of students and staff, significantly disrupt the orderly school environment, and/or may result in injury or significant loss of property.”

Under the policy, possible punishments for a Level One offense include placement in in-school suspension for 10 days or less, out-of-school suspension for 10 days or less, or referral to a disciplinary tribunal for a long-term suspension or expulsion from school.

“There’s a range of possible punishments for any of the offense types listed, but I can’t comment on [if differing punishments were handed out],” Otott said Friday. He added that he could not reveal if all involved students had been deemed to commit Level One offenses.

At the criminal level, by the during the week are still being charged with criminal interference with government property, a felony under Georgia Code 16-7-24. According to the state law, “A person commits the offense of interference with government property when he destroys, damages, or defaces government property.” Conviction of the crime carries a sentence of imprisonment for one to five years.

PCSO Cpl. Ashley Henson says none of the charges against the teens have been dropped or lessened. The department’s investigation continues, and more charges could be pending, he added.

Though most of the damage to the school—which included the words “Senior” and “2012” spray-painted across the campus, including the guard shack, two county vehicles and the roadway—has been cleaned up, a few areas still require touch-ups. Otott said that in all, clean-up efforts thus far and expected to be needed have been estimated at $7,500, which includes labor hours, materials and equipment.

“We still have some residual damage [at the school] that we’re working on,” he said. “Of course, when you spray paint brick, which is a very porous material, it’s not going to clean as easily, so there are still efforts underway to bring that back to the state is way prior to being spray painted.”

The vandalism also saw parts of a subdivision across the street spray-painted.

Otott says that while off-campus areas might have been cleaned up by some of the teens involved in the vandalism, no teens to his knowledge took part in the clean-up at the school.

“We have liability issues. We can’t have minors using chemicals and doing that kind of work. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position of having untrained students using equipment or materials that they’re not familiar with,” he said.

Some have deemed the spray-painting of the intersection in front of the school as a traditional senior prank. Had the vandalism been limited to the intersection, officials believe the teens would have avoided school-level punishment, though the criminal charge each would face would likely remain the same.

“The intersection itself is not school property. However, the roadway is county property,” Henson said. “I don’t know about school policies or what they would do in these situations. We don’t have anything to do with school polices or how they handle criminal offenses committed by their students.”

“If there were not damage to the school and it were contained to the roadway, I would not imagine [there would be school-level charges],” Otott said. “But there are so many mitigating factors that are involved in situations, it’s hard to give a pat answer to that. If students defaced or vandalized government property, that is a felony, [as it’s] interference with government property. That would depend on a number of scenarios and how the students might have entered campus or been on our campus.”

Henson adds that authorities are unsure which teens painted which areas of the vandalism. If that were to be determined, he said additional charges could be levied.

Visit Dallas-Hiram Patch for further updates.

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